Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Countries around the world and the global economy are desperately waiting for a coronavirus vaccine, and experts say there is a chance one will become available in record time.

The state of play: We really need it to come through, especially in the U.S. — where we're not doing so great on anything else. The spike in cases we're seeing across the South and Southwest is not simply the result of more testing. All indications are that it is the result of a worsening outbreak.

  • Infections are rising nationwide. In several states, they're breaking one-day records. Hospitalizations are also up — seven states have hit a record number of COVID-19 hospitalizations this week, per the Washington Post.
  • Deaths are so far not following this upward trend. But they are, obviously, one of the outcomes after a person tests positive and gets sick. So there's every reason to believe death numbers will rise again. And over 120,000 people have already died.
  • And progress does not seem to be forthcoming. The Trump administration has at least considered lifting the federal emergency declaration for the virus, part of which is set to expire next month, the L.A. Times reports.

What's next: "I believe it will be when, and not if," Anthony Fauci, the director of the NIH's infectious diseases center, told a House panel about a vaccine yesterday.

  • Fauci reiterated the ambitious timeline he's laid out before — human trials for one potential vaccine will begin this month, others will follow soon, and a product could be available to the public by the end of the year or early 2021. That would be record-breaking speed.
  • It's possible, he said, because of the willingness to accept the financial risk of scaling up manufacturing for products that may not work, just to be ready for the one that does.

That raises the question: Who gets a vaccine first?

  • "We can assume that a country is going to try to control a vaccine that's developed in its country, and give it to its citizens first," medical ethicist and health policy expert Zeke Emanuel said yesterday on the "Axios Re:Cap" podcast. That could be good news for the U.S., which has a stake in several American companies' vaccine candidates.
  • But if, for example, China gets there first, it could "months or years" before anyone else gets a crack at that product, Emanuel said.
  • "We need a different approach other than, 'Me, me, me, me, me; my country, my country,' because that's not going to be wise either — for restarting the economy; for travel, for example, and for not having the coronavirus come back and infect the country," he said.

The bottom line: We may think we're through with the pandemic. But the pandemic isn't through with us.

Go deeper

Oct 1, 2020 - Health

Pfizer CEO: COVID-19 vaccine development is "moving at the speed of science"

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourl speaking in New York City in 2019. Photo: Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told employees in a letter Thursday that he is disappointed his company's coronavirus vaccine was politicized during this week’s presidential debate, adding that campaign rhetoric about the outbreak and vaccine development is “undercutting public confidence," according to AP and CNBC.

Why it matters: President Trump accused pharmaceutical companies of slowing their COVID-19 vaccine development to hurt him politically at Tuesday's debate, claiming the U.S. is "weeks away from a vaccine," per Stat News.

Oct 1, 2020 - Health

New poll shows alarming coronavirus vaccine skepticism

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

 Lack of trust in a potential coronavirus vaccine is becoming a truly major problem, according to a new Stat/Harris Poll survey shared with Axios.

By the numbers: 79% of respondents said they would worry about a vaccine's safety if it's approved quickly, and 75% said they worry about politics — rather than science — driving the process.

Health officials urge flu shots, warning of "twindemic" with COVID-19

Data: NFID survey, Aug. 17-19, 2020; Note: Margin of error for the total survey is ±4.4%; Chart: Axios Visuals

Americans need to prioritize getting their influenza vaccine now, public health officials warned Thursday.

Why it matters: The seasonal flu combined with the coronavirus pandemic could lead to a "twindemic" with increased chances of co-infections and an overwhelmed health system. Because symptoms are similar and diagnostics aren't fast, people can best mitigate their risks with the flu shot plus social distancing and mask-wearing this fall and winter.